Kathy Lilly Bryson of The Spenser Magnet reports that some traditional foods often used for spring festivities may contain organisms that could make people sick. So whether it’s a neighborhood picnic or graduation party, it’s important to properly store, handle and prepare traditional fare for these observances. These foods include raw eggs, lamb, poultry, ham, beef and salads and sandwiches with mayonnaise or dairy products.
Shell eggs might contain Salmonella enteritidis, bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Although the number of affected eggs is quite small, foodborne illnesses have occurred in the past few years. Groups especially vulnerable to Salmonella infections include those with health problems, the very young and senior citizens.
Eggs must be properly handled, refrigerated, and cooked to remain safe. Keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and thoroughly cook foods containing raw eggs.
When buying eggs, always choose those from a refrigerated case. Look for clean, uncracked shells. Always buy eggs before the “Sell By” or expiration date on the carton. A U.S. Department of Agriculture grade shield or mark means the eggs have met quality and size standards. Buy the size that’s most useful and economical for you.
Temperature fluctuations are critical to safety. Take eggs straight home from the store and immediately store them in the original carton in a refrigerator set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Put the carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Don’t wash eggs before storing them, because this could remove the protective mineral coating and increase the potential for bacteria on the shell to enter the egg. Eggs shouldn’t be left unrefrigerated any longer than two hours. Once they are refrigerated, eggs need to stay that way. Leaving cold eggs at room temperature can cause shell sweat, which facilitates bacterial growth.
If eggs crack on your way home, break them into a clean container; tightly cover; refrigerate them. Use these eggs within two days. Eggs that crack during hard cooking are safe.
Below are some more basic food safety principles to ensure that food borne illness doesn’t erupt from your spring and summer festivities.
* Remember the adage, “keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.”
* Maintain cooked foods at 140 degrees F, or refrigerate them at 40 degrees F or lower. Keep cold foods at 40 degrees F in the refrigerator. If you freeze them, maintain the freezer temperature at 0 degrees F.
* Don’t leave hot or cold foods out more than 2 hours, because bacteria that cause food borne illness rapidly multiply at room temperature.
* Pre-heat the oven to a temperature of no lower than 325 degrees F to destroy bacteria that might be present in ham, lamb, beef or poultry products.
* Use a meat thermometer to ensure that you cook raw meats to an internal temperature sufficiently high enough to kill disease-causing bacteria. Cook fresh, raw ham to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F; raw lamb and beef roast, at least 145 degrees F; and poultry, 170 degrees F for white meat and 180 degrees F for dark meat.
* You can heat a fully-cooked, ready-to-eat ham to 140 degrees F before serving if desired. Be sure to always keep this meat in the refrigerator.
* Refrigerate dry-cured country ham after you slice it. You can refrigerate a sliced, uncooked ham for two to three months, but only five to seven days after it’s cooked.
* Use raw beef or lamb within three to five days; otherwise, freeze the meat to use within six to nine months.
* Immediately refrigerate perishable foods after you finish the meal, but no longer than two hours after you’ve removed them from the refrigerator or oven.
* To speed the cooling process, carve leftover meat from the bone, put it in small, shallow containers, and place in the refrigerator or freezer.
Sources: Sandra Bastin and U.S. Department of Agriculture